Most Pelican city property owners can expect about $12 per month increase in 2023

Sewer and water rates will be rising for users in the city of Pelican Rapids in 2023. 

Homeowners and commercial property owners can expect to pay about $9 more per month, based on an average of about 6,000 gallons of flow per month. Meanwhile, sewer fees will rise an average of $3 per month for users. 

Taking the biggest hit in this round of sewer-water increases will be the West Central Turkeys plant. As an industrial user, the plant has flows of about 3.6 million gallons per month—which is about 60 percent of the city’s total flow. 

The good news, if it is any consolation to property owners, is that Pelican Rapids will still be among the lower third in the state—in sewer-water costs to consumers, noted Don Solga, city administrator. 

The city council approved the rate increases at the recent Nov. 15 council meeting. 

West Central Turkeys’ base rate will increase from $75,000 to $81,000 per month. 

The turkey plant is covering much of the debt for the sewer-water treatment plant. 

Rates are expected to rise further after the 2024-25 Highway 59-108 improvement project. The highway reconstruction will also include approximately $8 million in sewer-water improvements throughout the city’s two main corridors. Solga said that rates could rise 3 percent per year, to cover additional debt and inflation. 

The turkey plant is a big unknown in the equation. 

The “bird flu” has “thrown a wrench in production,” said Councilman Steve Foster. 

On top of the COVID pandemic, which also slowed production, the plant has gone from operating as much as six to seven days a week around the clock, to a number of full weekends shut down. 

Reduced plant production has a domino effect on the city—as lower flows equal less revenue for the city’s water-wastewater plant. 

Uncertainty at West Central prompted the city’s budget committee to reduce projections of water flow from 520,000 gallons per year, to 500,000 in 2023. 

The total water treatment budget was set at $654,773 for 2023. 

Meanwhile, the budget for wastewater treatment will rise from $1.6 million to $1.9 million. This sharp increase is due in large part to a one-time $357,000 expense to upgrade the intricate computer operating system. About $275,000 of the technology upgrade will be funded by federal money the city received from the COVID pandemic “American Rescue Plan.”